When caring for an aging loved one, it can be difficult to sort out the differences in services available and how or when to utilize them, especially for those who have significant illness. May aging seniors want to stay at home, and families are tasked with locating the resources needed to make that happen, but there isn’t a “one stop shop” to go and find everything you need to know.

Under Medicare, there are a wide array of services available for different reasons. We have talked in previous blogs about skilled home health care, but another service that is Medicare covered that can come to the home is Hospice care. What’s the Difference you ask? Skilled Home health is temporary assistance to help you get better from an illness or injury, including nursing care and therapies. It requires a doctor’s order and for the patient to be considered home bound. Hospice is for people with a limited life expectancy, who are no longer receiving curative treatment for their terminal illness, and want to focus on comfort and quality of the life they have left to live, rather than recovery.

Hospice care is more than just nursing care.  The team that will work with the patient often includes an array of professionals in addition to a nurse, such as a physician, nurse’s aide, social worker, chaplain, volunteers and bereavement counselors. Hospice provides all of the medications, equipment and supplies deemed necessary to manage the hospice diagnosis and keep the patient comfortable. The main goal of Hospice care is to ensure quality of life.  It is individualized based on the patient’s diagnosis, individual living situation and needs. This includes the needs of the support persons and/or family. Sometimes the services provides are less medical and more of emotional support. Bereavement services are even provided to the family long after the patient has passed.

At time, if symptoms are intensified, Medicare will authorized hospice to provide temporary shifts of 24-hour care in the home until the symptoms are managed. This type of around the clock support is not typical of hospice and is not generally provided for more than a few days, until the patient either stabilizes or passes away. Sometimes people need more help than what is covered under Medicare. For example, when the patient cannot be left alone and family cannot provide 24 hour support or the care needs exceed what the family is able to provide. In those instances, private in home senior care can be an added resource that can make things more manageable during this time. Home care aides can be with the patient when the family cannot, can provide bathing, hygiene care, medication management, feeding, emotional support, relief for the family and more. The hospice social worker can provide assistance in locating a qualified home care company in your area and make a referral. Home care services do not require an additional physician order.

This process can be very overwhelming for families. One option is to hire an Aging Life Care Manager to help you identify the resources available where you live, on your budget, and help arrange for the appropriate level of care. Aging Life Care Managers are professionals (usually nurses and/or social workers) who specialize in navigating health care for the elderly. Find one in your area at alca.org


Are you looking for home care and house calls “near me”? Allegiance Aging Care Services is located at  20 Pidgeon Hill Dr Suite 208, Sterling, VA 20165. This privately-owned home care agency serves the greater Northern Virginia area around the Route 7 corridor. To learn more or for a free consultation, call (703) 539-6029 or contact us through our contact page here. We’re nearby, and we’re here for you.

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